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Thus, SL is made up of a patchwork of co-created, individually owned and operated sims under the umbrella of Linden Lab, but within which each sim owner can set their own rules and accessibility (Stoup ).
Thus, the capacity of residents to ‘play’ with and try out new realities and identities is vast and one of the attractions of SL type worlds.However, this very freedom or ‘creative empowerment’ (Stoup ) that residents prize is what allows sexual ageplay.Thus, since initial police attention on SL uncovered ‘paedophile’ and abuse imagery distribution networks in 2005, simultaneously discovering related sexual ageplay groups dubbed ‘virtual paedophile’ or ‘virtual child prostitution’ rings, Linden Lab (the Californian company that owns SL) has both denied the existence of sexual ageplay in SL but also, through the Community Standards, banned such virtual behaviours in any SL region (known as a sim), as well as all child avatars from adult only or ‘mature’ (M) SL sims.Thus, given that SL residents are primarily responsible for the recognition of sexual ageplay and for the reporting of it as contrary to the Community Standards, it is imperative to understand how SL residents in general understand and regard sexual ageplay and sexual ageplay in the particular context of SL.
Confusion, misunderstanding, non-interventionist perspectives, ‘bystander’ attitudes, belief in the harmlessness of sexual ageplay or ineffectiveness of the reporting process and sanctions would potentially all undermine the likelihood of SL residents reporting any concerns or instances they may be aware of.
Sexual ageplay can arguably be encompassed under legislation on fantasy images of child abuse (Reeves illegal based upon arguments that relate such imagery to the normalisation of child sexuality, exploitation and abuse, as well as correlate it with other criminal activity, such as grooming of children and possession of real life child abuse images.